News came today that one prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay has been moved to New York City in order to stand trial for a crime that was committed back in 1998. It’s been eleven years between the time of the crime and the time of the trial. He was captured five years ago, and has been a prisoner in Guantanamo since.
The 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, part of the Bill of Rights, begins, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” The prosecution of the prisoner, Ahmed Ghailani is a criminal prosecution, and is thus subject to the 8th Amendment. So, I’d like to know what our government plans to do about the fact that Ahmed Ghailani has not been granted a “speedy” trial.
I have no special compassion for Ahmed Ghailani. I merely wish him justice. Justice is not compassion. Neither is justice vengeance. Justice is blind. Justice is not granted as a favor, or delivered as a punishment. Justice is practiced for all so that we can maintain the advantages of a free society. Justice must be applied to all, or it is applied to none.
Yet, justice is not being applied to all. That puts everybody, not just those who have the misfortune to sit in Guantanamo, at risk. A government that decides not to follow the Constitution when it comes to the prosecution of Ahmed Ghailani can decide not to follow the Constitution during the prosecution of any person.
I’m sad to say that Ahmed Ghailani is fortunate compared to many of the other people held prisoner in Guantanamo. Ghailani will be put on trial in an ordinary American courtroom. Many prisoners in Guantanamo will be put on trial using a set of kangaroo courts designed by Barack Obama to ensure conviction.
Even those prisoners will not be the most unfortunate among those in Guantanamo. President Obama has asserted that he has the right to hold some people in captivity indefinitely, without any trial at all, and without even the right to challenge the validity of their imprisonment.
As it stands, the treatment of people held captive by the government of the United States of America depends upon their fortune, not the law. When fortune replaces the law as a means of punishment, there is no genuine law left at all.
I wish that the United States of America could stop being a nation of namby pamby, fair weather friends of freedom. I wish that we could bring ourselves to believe in true justice again.
Under a system of true justice, prisoners are put on trial, given whatever evidence that there exists against them. There is a chance that they will not be convicted. In fact, there must be a chance that they will not be convicted. Trials with predetermined outcomes, as the show trials being established by President Obama, are inherently unjust.
Fearful politicians knock their knees together and insist that prisoners in Guantanamo not be allowed to go on trial here in the United States. They are frightened that American courts could possibly not convict all of the Guantanamo prisoners. They stamp their feet and declare that some Guantanamo prisoners cannot possibly go to court here in the United States. They say that the American judicial system is ready.
That’s nonsense. All Guantanamo prisoners can be prosecuted now, or they can be set free. They have been held prisoner for years. If the government is not ready now, it will never be ready.
Like Bush before him, Obama is sacrificing the integrity of American justice for the sake of a handful of convictions.